Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: Tragedy on Elmendorf--BG Thomas L. Tinsley, 3rd Wing Commander, dies of a gunshot wound--UPDATE: Was Tinsley under extra pressure?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tragedy on Elmendorf--BG Thomas L. Tinsley, 3rd Wing Commander, dies of a gunshot wound--UPDATE: Was Tinsley under extra pressure?

Photo courtesy of USAF, Tinsley Bio

Per the ADN:
The commander of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base died of what is being described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest at his on-base home Sunday night, the Air Force said this afternoon.

The Air Force is investigating and can't say whether the shot that killed Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Tinsley was accidental or a suicide, Col. Richard Walberg said in a press conference.

Tinsley did not leave a suicide note.

Tinsley was declared dead around 10:30 p.m., according to a statement issued by the Air Force early this morning.

A video of the press conference with Col. Richard Walberg can be found HERE.


I know that this is an ongoing investigation and they are unsure if it is suicide or an accident. However, I knew that the Air Force has been under a huge shake-up for the last two months and wondered if that had put any extra pressure on BG Tinsley. Here is a story from June 5th:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted the Air Force's top military and civilian leaders Thursday, holding them to account in a historic Pentagon shake-up after embarrassing nuclear mix-ups.

Gates announced at a news conference that he had accepted the resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne - a highly unusual double firing.

Gates said his decision was based mainly on the damning conclusions of an internal report on the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four Air Force electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads. And he linked the underlying causes of that slip-up to another startling incident: the flight last August of a B-52 bomber that was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The report drew the stunning conclusion that the Air Force's nuclear standards have been in a long decline, a "problem that has been identified but not effectively addressed for over a decade."

These incidents began in August of 2006.

Later in the article:
Gates also announced that "a substantial number" of Air Force general officers and colonels were identified in the Donald report as potentially subject to disciplinary measures that range from removal from command to letters of reprimand. He said he would direct the yet-to-be-named successors to Wynne and Moseley to evaluate those identified culprits and decide what disciplinary actions are warranted - "or whether they can be part of the solution" to the problems found by Donald.
This from BG Tinsley's resume:
August 2005 - May 2007, executive officer to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
I found this headline, from today:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Air Force's logistics chief resigned Monday, saying the recent leadership shake up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates has hurt his ability to do his job.

In a sharply worded memo obtained by The Associated Press, William Anderson said the changes limit his ability to take care of the airmen and their families with the vigor they deserve.

"I can no longer draw on a critical mass of leadership within the Pentagon who share your vision for the support necessary to lean forward to aggressively support these American heroes," Anderson said in a memo to Bush.

This could all be coincidental and completely unrelated to the sad events of Sunday. However, the timing struck me as potentially significant.

Let me also be clear: I am NOT insinuating that BG Tinsley did anything wrong. It is also far from my intention to add to the pain of the family at this time. As an almost-15-year former employee of the military, I learned that excellent, caring officers are tarnished by controversy because the responsible big-wigs deflect the blame. I hope this is not the case with BG Tinsley.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

May his memory be Eternal.

Do you remember when General Boorda killed himself 15 years ago? He'd been grilled on something as petty as fluffing his medals. Was it that he wore something suggesting that he'd flown over Vietnam but didn't actually fight? I thought it was a guy thing and din't think it was worth it, but the national press was grilling him.

I think that his face is beautiful in this portrait. It's full of character. Other generals and officers look soooo serioooous. He looks thrilled to be there, "I'm a general! Cool!"

7/28/2008 10:50 PM  
Blogger CelticDiva said...

Everyone I've heard from has said what a great, enthusiastic guy he was.

That makes this all even more confusing, and more tragic.

7/29/2008 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have personally worked with General Tinsley a couple of times. Right now, I ask that you please pray for his family and all the airmen that worked under, for, and/or with him.

This is a tremendous loss to our service and it will have some side effects.

And he was VERY COOL

7/29/2008 9:47 AM  
Blogger Art Vandelay said...

It was Admiral Boorda not general. He was chief of naval operations. He killed himself in 1996because an expose by a Newsweek reporter and retired military officer named David Hackworth was writing an article that said Boorda who wore a little bronze "V" on his bronse star wasn't authorized to do so. The "V" would have indicated valor. He was also under a lot of stress from his admirals for close ties to President Clinton over his handling of the Tailhook incident.

For these military men it is usually death before dishonor. Both were flag officers and both shot themselves in the chest. Remember, senior officers aren't allowed to have psychiatric problems in the military.

7/29/2008 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art-- is a chest bullet the equivalent of harikari? That is heartbreaking about Adm.Boorda. I didn't know that senior officers can't have psychiatric issues. That should be considered discrimination.

7/29/2008 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is discrimination and it's absolutely necessary. A General Officer, especially the commander of a combat wing or equivalent unit, has enormous power under his command. The military must be discriminating in its choice of Generals. Would you want someone with known mental health problems in charge of resources capable of setting off a new war?

7/30/2008 5:43 AM  
Blogger Art Vandelay said...

What I meant by my statement of "not being allowed psychiatric problems" is that if a senior officer in the military asks for any mental health help, his career is effectively over. They know that and the military knows that--no matter what PC statement you will heaR. This is why most officers in the military will never get the help they need. The same thing goes for the pilot that is flying you on your airplane. If he is depressed and tells anyone he will get grounded. When I was with the Air Force there was a saying "that there is no such thing as a depressed fighter pilot" just for that reason.

Think about it.

Unless the military changes the stigma of mental health disorders there will be more Gen Tinsleys and Adm Boordas I hate to say.

God bless these men.

7/30/2008 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is probably just a coincidence


There will be a meeting of the Committee on


Monday, July 28, 2008

11:00 AM

Room SR-222, Russell Senate Office Building


To receive a briefing related to Air Force nominations.


7/31/2008 7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so saddened, no matter what the outcome of an investigation.
My husband and I had the honor to meet General Tinsley, just last month, at the Elm airshow.
We were there to visit our soon to deploy A1C son.
This man KNEW who our son was...and stood to chat with us.
How many Generals know his Airmen that way?
Our son admired his CO, and felt that he cared...for all of them.
A huge loss for the USAF. A sad day for so many young airmen who knew that they had a real leader.
May God be with his family.

Thank you, Sir.
Stand down, your job here was well done.

8/01/2008 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember Tom Tinsley (Pugs)as a young and very enthusiastic Captain when we attended Squadron Officer School together 19 years ago. He is one of only a few of my classmates that I actually remember because he was such a "presence" among the hundreds of officers in our class. I was not surprised by his impressive resume, his great success, and the affection that is so apparent as people remember how much he loved and cared about his fellow Airmen. I am so saddened by his death and pray for God's grace for his family.

8/07/2008 9:53 AM  
Blogger Debra said...

I too remember, Pugs, we were practically neighbors and my husband and I used to walk over for an occasional beer with he and Joanne. He was a great guy! He loved his little sports car, and didn't have a care in the world other than being a great guy. It is a total shock to hear of all the different stories of what could have happened. The world will miss him for sure.
My hat is off, my hands are in prayer for all of us, for such a tragedy.

8/15/2008 3:19 PM  

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